RESPONDENT: City Disposal Systems, Inc.
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
DOCKET NO.: 82-960
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 465 US 822 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1983
DECIDED: Mar 21, 1984
Norton J. Come - on behalf of the Petitioner
Robert P. Ufer - on behalf of Respondent
Facts of the case
Media for National Labor Relations Board v. City Disposal Systems, Inc.
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1983 in National Labor Relations Board v. City Disposal Systems, Inc.
Warren E. Burger:
We'll hear arguments next in National Labor Relations board against City Disposal Systems.
Mr. Come, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
This case, which is here on certiorari to the Sixth Circuit, involves the propriety of the Labor Board's conclusion that an individual employee's honest and reasonable assertion of a right that is provided for in a collective bargaining agreement, whose concerted activity was in the meaning of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
The underlying facts briefly are as follows: Respondent hauls garbage for the City of Detroit from a drop-off point to a landfill some 37 miles away.
The garbage is hauled by tractor trailers and normally a driver is assigned to a certain tractor trailer and when his vehicle is in for repairs he may be assigned to another one.
Respondent is a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the local Teamsters Union covering its drivers.
Section 1 of Article XXI of the Agreement provides that the employer shall not require employees to take out on the streets or highways any vehicle that is not in safe operating condition or equipped with the safety compliances prescribed by law.
It further provides that it shall not be a violation of this Agreement where employees refuse to operate such equipment unless such refusal is unjustified.
A further provision of the Agreement provides that the employer shall not ask or require any employee to take out equipment that has been reported by any other employee as being in unsafe operating condition unless the same has been approved as being safe by the mechanical department.
James Brown was a driver for the Respondent.
He normally drove Truck No. 245.
On Saturday, May 12, 1979, he had a near accident with Truck No. 244 driven by another employee, Frank Hamilton, when the brakes on 244 would not stop the truck at a landfill.
Hamilton took Truct 244 back to the drop-off point and with Brown present the mechanics told him that the truck would be fixed over the weekend or the first thing Monday morning.
Brown returned to work at 4:00 a.m. on Monday, May 14th.
He took out his Truck 245 to the landfill and found that the fifth wheel had a problem.
He returned to the drop-off point, talked to the mechanics and learned that the truck could not be fixed that day.
He then spoke to his supervisor, Jasmund, who told him to punch out and go home after confirming that Brown's truck could not be fixed.
Brown punched out, but remained in the driver's room, at which point Jasmund returned and requested Brown to drive Truck 244.
Brown said he would not do so since 244 had a brake problem.
Jasmund instructed Brown to go home and the two had a heated exchange.
Another supervisor, Madary, came on the scene, and when Brown reported that 244 had problems, Madary replied that half the trucks around here have problems and if Respondent tried to deal with all of them it would be unable to do business.
During the conversation, Brown asked, Bob, what are you going to do, put the garbage ahead of the safety of the men?
Madary did not reply nor did he or Jasmund make any attempt to show Brown that Truck 244 had, in fact, been repaired and was safe.
Brown went home and later that day he was discharged.
The Union's Recording Secretary received notice of the discharge that day and he and Brown returned to the plant and sought to get Jasmund and Madary to put Brown back to work, but they refused to do so.
The next day Brown filed a written grievance under the collective bargaining agreement alleging that he had been discharged in violation of the contract.
The Union declined to pursue Brown's grievance beyond the first step of the grievance procedure.
Harry A. Blackmun:
Does the record show why?
Norton J. Come:
The record indicates, in Respondent's Exhibit 10, which is not printed in the Joint Appendix, but which is in the record, that they found no merit to the grievance.